Thursday, May 18, 2017

Two Indiana women and more discoveries

*I'm back!*

Who's this lovely lady? 
Well, thanks to the great-nieces of Fred Hylands once more, they dug up this fantastic photograph of Fred's sister from around 1912 or so. Just as expected from Etta, she looks so much like Fred, or just a better-looking female version of her brother. She's very pretty, and it now is clear why she had marital issues, and why many men tried to get at her in a rather short period of time. She even has the messed up teeth that Fred had! No glasses though, that's all-right. 
Another thing, she appears to be rather tall, which makes sense. After  seeing this picture, not only do I have a better understanding of what the two siblings looked like, but also makes me want ever more to hear her play piano. Of course, she couldn't have been too different from her brother, since they essentially had the same musical background...though with her it's more likely that she gained better skill in technicality, since I would assumed her to be just enough more disciplined to gain more essentials of the basics. Though when I say that, I'm not saying much, since it's obvious these two were stubborn, according to the lives they lived.  
Her hair appears to be just as wild and curly as Fred's was, according to the picture below:
Of course, due to the issues we often have with black and white photographs, I'm not safely sure what to say her hair colour is. I want to say light brown to red, but I'm not sure. Whatever it is, it's the same colour as Fred's. Hmm, so maybe his hair was red? or at least kind of red. Wish we could figure this out better. One thing is for sure, long straight profiles ran in the family, and so did being tall and curly hair. 
This fantastic picture of Etta was not the only thing that the sisters sent me, that also sent a link to a professional picture of Fred's wife Marie.
This picture is dated 1912
So now that I'm able to see pictures of the two women in Fred's life, I actually have to edit something that I said a while ago. This picture above would indicate that the picture on Fred's sheet music from 1899 is actually who I thought it was initially. 
That's Marie, not Etta. It makes sense now.
Something that you might notice about the picture of her from 1912 that I though was kind of funny is hoe she's wearing lots of makeup. You can see that there's none in the 1899 picture of her. But that's not surprising at all, since she was a typical gaudy Broadway star of the era. Yes, now that I said that, her husband goes into the same category. She still looks like the type that would cause a stir with the boys at Columbia. 

She and Cal Stewart's wife must have done this when the boys brought them to outings they had, such as Steve Porter's yacht races, and those trips to the Waldorf in May of 1898 and 1899. 
Either way, it would be great if we could hear Etta play, or Marie sing, since they were pretty popular at what they did. 

This brings me to the other Indiana woman I was to discuss. 
This lovely lady is Verdi Karns. 
She was born in 1882 in Bluffton Indiana. Where's Bluffton? Well, actually it's right next to Fort Wayne, where Fred Hylands was from. So with that being said, we would expect her music to sound similar. This is entirely so, in fact, it is to the point of where it sounds exactly like if I were to transcribe any of the records Hylands improvises on. After reading up on her recently, she was essentially another Fred Hylands, a child prodigy, who did everything herself, writing her first rag at age 16, only to create the cover all herself, and publish all her pieces as well. She played in local orchestras and concert halls from age 13, becoming a popular favourite by age 17.Her most popular rag(if any were to be considered as such), was "The Bluffton Carnival Rag", composed in 1899, and written in the signature Indiana style, that just so happens to sound identical to Fred Hylands' playing. Since she attended the namesake of this rag, it's likely that Fred and Etta Hylands played there in the late-1880's when she was a little girl. With that, she probably heard Fred play violin or piano, in that strange and Ragged style he did. So it's no wonder that her rags sounded so much like Hylands' playing. Since I keep talking about it, here are two of her three rags:
"The Bluffton Carnival Rag"


To illustrate this point, listen to three recordings where Hylands sounds like the composition of these rags("Ragamuffin" particularly has that feel):
(of course there are plenty more examples out there!)

See! They're so similar! Of course, things like this aren't too surprising, since Karns and Hylands were from the same region, and were literally from the next town over from each other. This is something that us collectors come across rather often, so it doesn't come as a surprise, though how often do we get to hear a pianist from a certain region from sheet music, and get to compare it with a recording star from exactly the same time? Not too often does this happen, particularly as early as the 1890's. It seems little strange however that Karns played the same way that Hylands did, at exactly the same time, and Hylands had been removed from Indiana since 1892 by the time he was recording. Not to mention that Karns was ten years younger than Hylands, and had only been playing piano since about age 7 or so, which would have been since 1889. I guess it makes sense. It's not far removed from Hylands' style that developed only a few years before that or so. That means that this distinct style must have been deeply rooted in the area of northeastern Indiana and western Ohio, so much so that even two musicians born a decade apart in the area would sound almost exactly the same. 

Also! I have been meaning to share this interesting recording for a long while, and it's a real good one to study! It's a 1901 Climax record of a medley of Coon songs by Ruby Brooks, or that's what it's supposed to be anyhow. It actually turned out to be recorded as something really different than that. It turned out to sound more like a piano solo with scant banjo accompaniment. Since this is a Climax record(technically Columbia), that pianist ought to be Fred Hylands! 
Here you go:
Where's the banjo? That's the point here.
I don't think they meant for the record to sound this way, but it just happened to turn out that way. 
Anyhow, this recording is really significant because it's the closest thing we've got so far to a piano solo by Hylands, of course, that's only true if none of those other solos we've heard aren't actually of him playing.

I really want to think that the first one is an audition record for Columbia in 1897. Of course, it's not likely, but anything's possible on these terms. These piano solos scattered around all over the place are interesting to listen to, because oftentimes they are actually some of the best-made recordings out there, all the more reason to debunk the misconceptions people have about recording the piano in the brown wax era.  These unknown solos are often the most unusual sounding things to us, since we're not really used to hearing just piano on these records:

Most of these aren't very good, but there are occasionally ones that get us wondering about their origins. Some of them sound like commercial recordings, like the "Greater San Francisco" march brown wax. Which was actually recorded around 1906, as per the date of publication of the piece. The recording of "Sobre Las Olas" is just as nice, and well recorded as well. These are important strange recordings to study, even though some of them are less than mediocre. Luckily, the good ones in the mix a really good!

Haven't too much to say, but I'm sorry about taking so long of a gap since my last post. It's been real busy and stuff. 
Hope you enjoyed this! Next post will be longer and won't be so long awaited. 

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